Opinion Paper

A vibrant reflection of the revised integrated school health policy with a lens on substance use

Linda Shuro, Firdouza Waggie
African Journal of Primary Health Care & Family Medicine | Vol 13, No 1 | a3082 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/phcfm.v13i1.3082 | © 2021 Linda Shuro | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 09 June 2021 | Published: 28 October 2021

About the author(s)

Linda Shuro, School of Public Health, Faculty of Community and Health Sciences, University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa
Firdouza Waggie, Department of Clinical and Community Engagement, Faculty of Community and Health Sciences, University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa


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Abstract

Substance use is rife amongst adolescents, including learners. Learners are easily exposed to substances with onset as early as 10 years and average age of drug experimentation is 12 years in South Africa. This results in many negative health and social outcomes, a challenge as far as the achievement of global, regional and national goals such as quality education. The revised Integrated School Health Policy (ISHP) is a policy operating within the school environment aiming to address health and social barriers of learners and improve optimal health, comprising a vague action component on substance use prevention. This article is an opinion piece, which uses the Walt and Gilson model as an operational framework to analyse the revised ISHP within the lens of substance use. It assesses the four interrelated aspects: policy context, policy content, policy actors, and the policy process. The ISHP is placed within schools where adolescents are found and has the potential to reduce many health challenges such as substance use amongst learners. However, some issues are left to chance, such as health education on substance use prevention stated to only begin at Grade 4 (10 years), little mention of parental involvement, limited interplay amongst actors, limited investment in upskilling educators on dealing with substance use, scarce resources for implementation in all developmental phases and provinces to address substance use. Intervention can be more comprehensive with an intersectoral political approach needed to ensure that implementation addresses all multiple levels of influence of substance use amongst learners and the numerous health and social barriers.

Keywords

school health policy; substance use; South Africa; adolescents; integrated political approach; learners

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